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518 Topics: American Presidents – Franklin Delano Roosevelt; to be trapped versus to be lodged; to keep it together, to keep a stiff upper lip, and as luck would have it; pardon me

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 518.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 518. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California. Oh yeah.

Visit our website at eslpod.com. You can take a look at our ESL Podcast Store while you’re there. It has lots of additional courses in Business and Daily English I think you will like. You can also like us on Facebook at facebook.com/eslpod.

On this Café, we’re going to talk about the 32nd president of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the longest-serving president in American history and one of the most important figures in the twentieth century. And as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt – more popularly known by his initials, “FDR” – was born in New York on January 30th, 1882. He was actually born in a place called Hyde Park, which is about 90 miles north of New York City. He was born into a wealthy family, a family with a lot of money. He spent his childhood either in New York or traveling in Europe. He graduated from Harvard University, one of the best universities in the United States, in 1904. He married someone by the name of Eleanor Roosevelt. No, it wasn’t his sister. It was what we would describe as a “distant cousin,” someone who was related to him, but not very close.

Interestingly, Eleanor Roosevelt was actually the niece of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s fifth cousin, who was another U.S. president, Theodore Roosevelt – or “Teddy Roosevelt” as we more popularly know him – the 26th president of the United States. It goes to show you, I suppose, that even though the United States considers itself a democracy, the people who end up getting elected president of the United States are often from a very small circle of people, a very small group of people who are sometimes even related to each other.

After finishing Harvard, FDR went to law school at another great university, Columbia University, which is located in New York City. He decided to go into law after he graduated, but he wasn’t really very interested in being a lawyer. So instead, as many lawyers do, he got involved in politics. In 1910, he entered an election to be part of the New York State government and he won that election. He became what we call a “state senator.”

He quickly made a name for himself in New York politics. “To make a name for yourself” means to have people begin to notice you, to notice what you’re doing, especially in a specific field or area of work such as politics or perhaps the movie business. In 1913, the president of the United States at that time, a Democrat by the name of Woodrow Wilson, appointed FDR “assistant secretary of the Navy.” The assistant secretary of the Navy is the second most powerful person in charge of the United States Navy, which is of course the part of the U.S. military that protects the seas, the oceans.

When I say that President Wilson “appointed” him, I mean he named him. He gave him that position. That’s pretty interesting given that Roosevelt had only been out of college for, what, nine years? So, FDR was rather young for a position of that sort. When the United States became involved in World War I late in the war, Franklin showed that he was also very good at being an administrator. An “administrator” (administrator) is a person who runs an organization or a business.

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt had six children together, five of whom lived to become adults. It was, of course, not uncommon in this period and before that some children wouldn’t survive, and in the case of the Roosevelts, five of their six children did survive and grew up to be adults. Franklin and Eleanor did not have what we would call the most happy marriage, but they decided to stay in their marriage, to stay committed to each other.

In 1920, Roosevelt, still a fairly young man, was nominated to run for the office of vice president of the United States. That’s pretty good for someone who was only in his late thirties at the time. When I say he was “nominated to run for the office,” I mean that he was selected to be the person who would try to win the political office. He was nominated as the candidate for vice president for the Democratic Party. The presidential candidate – someone whom you probably never heard of (I know I hadn’t) – was James Cox. The reason you never heard of James Cox is because he lost to the Republican candidate in 1920, a man by the name of Warren G. Harding.

In 1921, Roosevelt went on vacation to his family’s home in New Brunswick, Canada. New Brunswick is one of the provinces of Canada, located about a thousand kilometers from New York City. While Roosevelt was there, however, he contracted the disease known as “polio” (polio). “To contract (contract) a disease” means to get a disease or to develop some sort of illness. “Polio” is an illness that can cause people to become paralyzed. “To be paralyzed” (paralyzed) means to be unable to move all the parts of your body. In the case of Roosevelt, he lost the ability to use his legs.

As you may know, polio, at least in industrialized countries, was mostly eliminated by the discovery of a vaccine against polio by Jonas Salk, the American scientist. Polio still exists, unfortunately, in some parts of the world, but in the 1920s there was no vaccine against polio, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt suffered from the effects of that disease. At one point, right after he contracted the illness, he was completely paralyzed, meaning he couldn’t move his arms or his legs.

However, Eleanor and a friend of the family told him that he needed to stay active in politics so that when he got better, he could run for office again. Roosevelt agreed with them, and so his wife Eleanor traveled throughout the state of New York, giving speeches and meeting people for Franklin while he stayed at their home and got better. She did this so that Franklin would be able to run for office again – so that people wouldn’t forget who he was.

But the Roosevelts did not publicize the fact that Franklin had contracted polio. They didn’t let people know about it. In fact, there are probably still some Americans who look at old photographs of FDR who don’t even realize he had polio. That’s because he didn’t allow himself to be photographed in any position that would allow you to know that he had this illness – that he was in fact partially paralyzed, unable to move his legs.

Roosevelt then partially recovered or got better from the illness. He had special braces made for his legs so that he could walk a short distance. A “brace” (brace) is a device or piece of equipment that holds something tightly to give it support. People who have problems with their knees, for example, may have a brace on their leg to allow them or help them to walk.

In 1928, Roosevelt ran again for office, this time for the office of governor or leader of the state of New York, and he won. He was a successful governor and especially when the U.S. economy – the world economy, really – began to suffer problems in 1929. He created programs that helped people who had lost their jobs. In 1932 Roosevelt, having become very popular as a governor, ran for president of the United States for the Democratic Party. The country was suffering during this period from what we call the Great Depression – the serious economic problems that the entire economy had.

Roosevelt won the election and created a plan for helping the United States, a plan that he called the “New Deal.” A “deal” (deal) is like an agreement. Roosevelt’s New Deal involved having the government spend large amounts of money to try to help the economy. When Roosevelt took over as president – we would say when he was “inaugurated” as president – in March of 1933, he gave a very famous speech, or what was to become a very famous speech. He said in this speech that the only thing Americans had to fear was fear itself.

He was trying to give the country, which was of course suffering greatly during this period, some hope that things would get better. He tried to make things better. Economists nowadays are not always in agreement about whether his programs were successful or not, but certainly he made the American people feel as though things were going to get better in the future, even if they didn’t always get better – or at least, not as quickly as Roosevelt thought they would.

The New Deal tried to help the economy in a number of different ways. One way was to give subsidies to farmers. A “subsidy” (subsidy) is money given to a farmer so that the farmer can continue in business. Often it allows the price of what the farmer is growing to remain high. In fact, sometimes farmers are paid not to grow anything in order that the price of whatever it is they are growing will not drop.

The New Deal was also known for a number of different programs. One of them was called the “Works Progress Administration,” or simply “WPA.” The WPA tried to help people who needed jobs by giving them jobs working for the government, building things. The WPA was famous for building public buildings such as libraries and parks – or at least the building that would be in a park – bridges, even airports were built in part by the WPA. My older uncles actually worked in some of these government programs during the 1930s because they didn’t have jobs.

Another famous part of the New Deal of Franklin Delano Roosevelt was setting up, for the first time in the United States, a Social Security program. There was a government agency that was created by Roosevelt called the Social Security Administration, and it’s still around today. The original idea was to help people who needed financial help and who couldn’t get a job or who were too old to work. The Social Security program has changed over the years and has become a more general retirement program that the government operates.

Many large businesses were against the ideas that Roosevelt had implemented during his first presidential term from 1933 to 1937. However, the people – the general public – loved Roosevelt, and he was re-elected not once, not twice, but three times, making him the only American to be elected to the presidency four terms, or four times. Whatever one thinks of Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, he certainly changed the way that Americans looked at government and changed the role of government in the American economy in a way that in some ways is still with us many years later.

The other important reason why Roosevelt is important is his role in World War II and in international events surrounding that war. The war in Europe began in 1939, however it wasn’t until December of 1941, when Japan attacked the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, that the United States officially and formally entered into the war, not just the war in the Pacific, but the war in Europe – indeed, what was the Second World War.

Most Americans were against getting involved in another world war in the late 1930s and the early 1940s, but after the attack on Pearl Harbor all Americans got behind the idea of getting involved in the world war that was then going on. The United States, as you probably know, created or joined an alliance of countries including Great Britain and Russia. An “alliance” (alliance) is a partnership where, in this case, a group of countries get together to try to accomplish some goal.

Roosevelt, along with Churchill and Stalin, provided important leadership during the war, and of course the United States provided millions and millions of soldiers. One of those soldiers was a man by the name of Patrick McQuillan – my father – who fought in North Africa, Italy, France and Germany. The role of the United States in international affairs and in international politics certainly changed with World War II, and that change has continued to affect world history, for better or for worse, ever since.

Roosevelt himself, in his fourth term, was already a sick man. He was elected in 1944. That was the third re-election of Roosevelt. But he was, in fact, already ill. In fact, his health began to decline even before the election of that year. “To decline” here means to get worse. Nevertheless, he was elected in 1944, and in February of 1945, he traveled to Yalta, Russia, to meet with the other members of the alliance, the leaders of the alliance, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin. When he returned to the United States, he gave a speech to Congress which, for the first time ever, had him sitting down in a chair.

In April of 1945, Roosevelt went to his home in the state of Georgia, which is located in the southeastern part of the U.S. He went there for a short vacation, however when he was there, he died of a cerebral hemorrhage – a sudden bleeding into the brain. He was only 63 years old. There’s no question that Franklin Roosevelt was the most important political figure of the twentieth century in the United States. He changed not only the American economy and American government, but also led his country during the largest war of that century, World War II.

Most Americans nowadays would certainly rank him, or put him, in the top five most influential American presidents – along with, I suppose, President George Washington, our first president, President Thomas Jefferson, our third president, President Abraham Lincoln, our 16th president. Maybe Roosevelt would come after those three in importance in American history, but in the twentieth century he was certainly the most important president in terms of his influence on the United States.

Now let’s answer some of the questions you have sent to us.

Our first question comes from Rasoul (Rasoul) in Iran. The question has to do with the difference between “trapped” and “lodged.” “To be trapped” (trapped) means to be caught in something or stopped unexpectedly – to be put in a position or situation from which it is difficult or even impossible to escape. So for example, if you have, I don’t know, a cat in your backyard, and you don’t like this cat. You want to get rid of it. You might try to trap the cat. Get the cat to go into a little box and then close the door so the cat can’t get out. That would be one possible use of this expression “to be trapped.”

You could also be “trapped” in a job, speaking metaphorically. You’re not actually trapped. You can quit your job, but you feel as though you were trapped because maybe you can’t find a better job, or you hate your job but you need the money the job gives you and you can’t find another one. If you’re in a building, and there’s a fire and you can’t get out of the building, we would say you are “trapped” inside the building.

“To be lodged” (lodged) is somewhat similar, or can mean something similar, to “to be trapped.” “To be lodged” means to be stuck in a certain position. Usually we use this when we are describing an object instead of a person. And often the object is somewhat small. You could get a pen lodged into the power outlet – the, what we would call, “power socket.” You could take the pen and stick it in there and then not be able to remove it. It could get stuck. It could get “lodged” in that position or in that particular space.

There is another meaning of “to be lodged,” and that relates to someone who is staying in a certain place such as a hotel. There, “to be lodged” refers to where you are staying. You’re not stuck there. You’re not trapped there. You’re staying there. You’re sleeping at night in that particular place. The word “lodging” (lodging) refers to the place where you stay when you are travelling.

Our next question comes from Ismail (Ismail) in Turkey. The question has to do with three expressions. The first is “to keep it together.” The second is “to keep a stiff upper lip.” And the third is “as luck would have it.”

The first expression, “to keep it together,” means to remain calm even when things get confusing or perhaps even dangerous. The opposite of “keeping it together” would be perhaps to freak out, or to act irrationally, or to panic. We sometimes use this expression when something bad happens to you. Perhaps someone close to you has died, and you want to cry and get very emotional and perhaps not even continue on with your own daily activities. “To keep it together” would be to do the opposite – to still be sad but to be able to continue to function.

The next expression, “to keep a stiff (stiff) upper lip (lip)” means to show courage even when you are in danger or to be strong even though you are in pain or are experiencing difficulties. The word “lip” refers to your mouth. You have an upper lip and a lower lip. “Stiff” means not easily bent. So, to show a “stiff upper lip” means not to show that emotion that you might be feeling on your face, not to exhibit it. This expression “to keep a stiff upper lip” is not very common in American English. You will hear this more in British English.

The third expression is “as luck (luck) would have it.” “As luck would have it” is used to describe the way something turned out, the way something happened. It might be a good thing involving good luck. It might be a bad thing involving bad luck. You could say, “As luck would have it, the doctor was not in his office when I went to visit him.” That means you had bad luck. It isn’t something that you planned on, but it’s something that happened. You could also say, “As luck would have it, the beautiful girl sitting next to me was single. She didn’t have a boyfriend.” That would be lucky for you – unless, of course, you already have a girlfriend.

Our final question comes from James (James) in Thailand. James wants to know how we use the word “pardon” (pardon). In American English, you will most likely hear the word “pardon” when someone doesn’t hear what the other person is saying and wants the other person to repeat it.

So for example, if you are standing in line at a bank trying to exchange money – trying to get, say, dollars for your Euros which you have – and the bank teller, the person working at the bank, says something to you and you can’t hear her because, as is often the case in modern American banks, there’s a big glass wall, basically a glass window, in between you and the person working at the bank for security purposes. If you didn’t hear what she said, you might say, “Pardon?” You’re asking her to repeat the last thing she said.

This is different than when someone says, “Pardon me.” “Pardon me” could be used in the same way that Americans more commonly use “Excuse me” – when you are, say, on a crowded train and you need to get around someone who is standing in your way. You could say, “Pardon me. Can I get around you so I can get to the door?” Americans would probably in that instance more commonly use, “Excuse me.” “Excuse me” is the more common way of asking someone to move or to allow you to go by him or her.

You could also use “pardon me” to ask for forgiveness when you make a mistake. Although again, in American English we would more commonly say, “Excuse me” in that instance. “I’m sorry. Excuse me. I made a mistake.” In British English, you might hear more frequently in that situation someone saying, “Pardon me.”

There’s another expression with the word “pardon,” which is “I beg your pardon.” “I beg” – or “ask for” – “your pardon” could mean the same as “pardon” when you don’t hear someone. It depends on how the person says it. If someone says something to you and you don’t hear him, you could say, “I beg your pardon. I’m sorry – I didn’t hear that.”

Said in a different way however, it would be used in a situation where the other person says something that you don’t like that has made you angry. If a young child says to his mother, “Mom, I don’t like your cooking,” a mother might say, “I beg your pardon? Would you like to do the cooking in this house?” That’s an example where the way you say it changes its meaning. In that case, the mother is angry at the child for saying what he has said.

There was also a song, a country song:

“I beg your pardon
I never promised you a rose garden.”

“I never promised you a rose garden” means I never promised you that life would be wonderful. Perhaps said by a man whose wife is complaining that things aren’t what she thought they would be now that they are married. The use of “I beg your pardon” here is, again, similar to the way the mother uses it. The person is disagreeing or is angry with what another person has said.

If you have a question or comment, you can email us. Our email address is eslpod@eslpod.com.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on the English Café.

ESL Podcast’s English Café is written and produced by Dr. Jeff McQuillan and
Dr. Lucy Tse. This podcast is copyright 2015 by the Center for Educational

to make a name for (oneself) – to have others begin to notice one’s actions and behaviors in a positive way

* Georgina made a name for herself as the best real estate agent in town.

to appoint – to assign someone to a particular job or political office

* When the judge retired, the president appointed a new judge to take her place.

administrator – a person responsible for running a business or organization

* After teaching for over twenty years, Marco was looking forward to leaving the classroom to become a school administrator.

to run for – to enter a race or contest for an elected political office or job

* Heng decided to run for city mayor after spending years talking about her ideas for improving the town.

to contract – to catch or develop a disease or illness

* Dmitri contracted the flu after his sick coworker coughed and sneezed on him.

paralyzed – having a medical condition causing one to be unable to move one or more parts of one’s body

* After the car accident, Juan was paralyzed from the waist down and had to use a wheelchair to get around.

to recover – to get better; to improve

* Dirk was exhausted after his long trip but recovered after a restful weekend.

brace – a piece of medical equipment that holds a part of the body tightly to give it support

* A leg brace allowed Bo to get out of his wheelchair and walk short distances.

fireside – the area next to the fireplace in a home

* The children remained fireside to stay warm on the cold winter night.

subsidy – an amount of money given by the government to a particular group so that the products they sold could remain at a low price

* When the price of milk increased a lot in a short period of time, the government gave subsidies to dairy farmers to help lower the price.

alliance – a partnership where everyone benefits or gets something positive as a result

* Ben’s little brother, Pete, was getting beaten up at school, so Ben formed an alliance with some of his friends to protect Pete and all of their younger brothers and sisters.

to decline – to go down; to get worse

* After the factory shut down and people moved away, home prices declined.

to be trapped – for something to be caught or stopped unexpectedly; to be in a position or situation from which it is difficult or impossible to escape

* The little girl is trapped on the other side of the raging river.

to be lodged – to become stuck or fixed in a specific place or position and not be able to move or escape; to stay at a place for a short period of time

* Our dog is lodged under the front porch and we can’t get him out.

to keep it together – to remain calm when things are getting confused, disordered, or intense

* How does Raquel keep it together when her boss yells at her like that every day?

to keep a stiff upper lip – to show courage in the face of pain or difficulties; to not show one’s emotions under stress or pain

* We must keep a stiff upper lip during these difficult times if we are to survive the war.

as luck would have it – how things turned out; as it happened

* Louisa expected to continue working in her low-level job for another year, but as luck would have it, her boss quit and she was promoted to his position.

pardon me – forgive me; excuse me; a phrase used to request forgiveness for a small impolite act, such as bumping a person while passing

* Pardon me for speaking so loudly. I didn’t think you could hear me above the loud music.

What Insiders Know
The Sunshine Special

The Sunshine Special was the official car used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was made by Ford Motor Company as part of their Lincoln “division” (section of a company). The Sunshine Special was known to be the president’s favorite car. The car was originally “equipped with” (supplied with) a “siren” (loud sound a vehicle makes to warn others of its approach), “running lights” (small lights in a row along the side), and a two-way radio. It also had “running boards” (a ledge or step on the side of a car where a person could place his/her foot) and grab “handles” (something gripped in one’s hand to hold onto something) that can be used be “Secret Service agents” – the president’s own security guards.

It unclear how the car got its “nickname” (informal name) of The Sunshine Special. The car had a “retractable roof” (a roof system designed to roll back the roof so that the interior is open to the outdoors), however, allowing the president to enjoy the sunlight as he rode in the car and went to public gatherings.

When World War II began, the Secret Service became concerned about the president’s safety. The president’s car, at this time, was still not “armored” (with metal coverings for safety) and had no other protective features. For this reason, it was sent to be “modified” (changed). The Sunshine Special was later equipped with “armor plating” (hard steel plates used to cover vehicles for safety) for the doors, “bullet proof” (will not lose air if hit by bullets) tires, and storage compartments for “pistols” (guns) and “sub-machine guns” (large guns that are able to shoot many bullets in a short period of time). These modifications increased the car’s weight to 9,300 pounds.

After Roosevelt died in 1945, The Sunshine Special remained the presidential car for President Harry S. Truman until a new “fleet” (group of ships or vehicles that move or work together or that are controlled or owned by one company) of Lincoln cars were acquired after the presidential election in 1948. The Sunshine Special is now on permanent “display” (placed so others can see it) at the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan.